Woman told off for breast-feeding at Disney condemns 'mum shaming'

Paris (AFP) –


A woman who was "berated" by security guards at Disneyland Paris for breastfeeding her daughter on a bench said Thursday she hoped outrage about her experience would help prevent other incidents of "mum shaming".

Disney has apologised for the actions of three guards at the park who told the 33-year-old Australian she had to cover up or move as she was feeding her two-month-old child near a ride last Saturday.

"I had my daughter to my breast with three people around me berating me to stop something I consider a completely natural and normal part of life," Laura, who asked to use only her first name, told AFP.

"I felt completely vulnerable, totally intimidated and quite afraid."

The mother-of-two said she told the guards "quite firmly" that she would not comply with their instructions, but they were insistent she should stop or move to a dedicated "mother-and-child" area.

"I asked what was the reason for this kind of request and they basically said it was for the other guests of the park who are here from other cultures and religions," Laura explained.

After the story began circulating on social media on Wednesday, Disneyland initially reacted by saying that mothers had the use of special rooms "with suitable and comfortable material such as special breastfeeding seats".

France's junior interior minister, Marlene Schiappa -- a vocal women's rights campaigner -- replied on Twitter that "breastfeeding a baby is not an offence. It's good that you have dedicated rooms but no one knows when and where a baby will be hungry."

This prompted another response from the park which said it "profoundly regrets this situation and present once more our apologies to the mother in question".

- 'Confusing mystery' -

France has the second-lowest rate of breastfeeding in the rich world, with around one in three children fed exclusively with infant formula, according to data from UN children's agency UNICEF.

There are no laws in France related to breastfeeding in public, only rules around nudity if it considered sexual exhibitionism.

Laura said she was told by the head of security that there was no policy to restrict public breastfeeding, but she is still left with unanswered questions.

"It's a very confusing mystery as to why security guards would come up to me out of the blue," she added.

The native of Alice Springs, who has lived in France with her husband for five years, said the issue was "bigger than Disneyland".

She said other friends had suffered unwelcome remarks or dirty looks while breastfeeding their children in public.

"I want to invite others to stop this 'mum shaming' and intervene when you see mothers being harassed," she said.

The silver lining in her upsetting day was the reaction of a fellow mother.

"She sat down and started feeding her child in solidarity with me. I just burst into tears, I was overwhelmed by her kindness," she said.

In June, following news reports that a mother had been slapped in the city of Bordeaux for breastfeeding in public, MP Fiona Lazaar proposed a law that would make preventing a mother nursing her child punishable with a 1,500-euro fine.

Fact-checkers at Liberation newspaper have since cast doubt on whether the woman was slapped.